In our consultancy practice, Designed Outcomes, Moss and I have found it vital to deal with the emotional aspects alongside the financial aspects of an owner leaving the business. That’s why we take a holistic approach to assessing the business’s readiness for succession and transition. Until we deal with the owner’s psychological readiness to leave the business (or not), only then can we build a strong foundation for the transition process.
When we wrote our book, Changing Places, we decided to use real life stories from our practice to exemplify both the potential problems faced by business owners and the practical solutions they have adopted. Family business transitions can get particularly tricky, fraught with a number of challenging emotional and sensitive family issues, often long buried and difficult to discuss.
Ignoring these issues rarely helps, so the only path to progress is to carefully dig into the details and go right to the heart of the situation. It can take a lot of work to fully understand the roles of both the parent and the children in the business.
However, not all family businesses are as fraught with complications. We worked with one family-owned business where the generational transition was relatively straightforward. It’s one of my favorite stories, Stephen and Jack’s, from Chapter 7:
Family Considerations–Emotional Readiness
Stephen was an only son and had taken over the business from his father more than 25 years before. Stephen had one child, Jack. Jack had never indicated an interest in doing anything other than working with his dad, and someday taking over the business from him.
Over a period of almost twenty years, Stephen groomed his son Jack as his successor, giving him ever-greater responsibilities inside the company. Whenever Stephen might decide he was ready to retire, Jack would be ready to take over.
The only problem was that Stephen never seemed to want to retire, and Jack was left feeling impatient, with no change in sight. The key to resolving this situation was finding a safe way to allow Stephen and Jack to deal with the “elephant in the room.”
Once the father and son were able to talk about their personal needs and apparent frustrations, it was relatively easy for them to lay out the necessary steps for an orderly transition.
The key to success in this area is to help the owner define his new post-transition role. Perhaps While everything doesn’t have to be spelled out in black and white, issues have to be resolved to everyone’s general satisfaction.
Even if you can’t imagine retiring, there are many reasons to get started without delay. Changes in your family situation can be unpredictable. Without a thoughtful succession and transition plan, you could easily find yourself behind the proverbial eight ball, looking at an uncertain future.
Check it out: “Changing Places: Making a Success of Succession Planning for Entrepreneurs and Family Business Owners” (published by AuthorHouse). Feedback please to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dave Franzetta and Moss Jackson pen new action planning guide, Changing Places, for small business owners facing the conflict of generational leadership change.
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